Last week, there was a very weird moment in the Epic V. Apple trial where Apple was pressed on Roblox, the massively popular game that just went public and is a big hit on a ton of platforms including iOS.
The question posed to Apple was that if their policy disallowing the Epic Game Store to existing on iOS was not to allow “game stores within the App Store,” why was Roblox an exception? The game has hundreds of thousands of games made by players and even full development studios inside it, so it seemed to be technically breaking Apple’s own rules.
Apple’s explanation was…bizarre. They tried to claim that the games made by creators or developers in Roblox were not games, but “experiences.” It’s semantics, but they were trying to justify why Roblox isn’t being given a hard time, but the Epic Game Store (or other game portals like Xbox Cloud Gaming) can’t have their own apps. Later, Apple tried to get Epic to admit that games made within Fortnite are “experiences” as well, which they didn’t take the bait on.
Now, something pretty weird has happened.
Roblox has now gone out of its way to try and line itself up with Apple’s narrative here. They have gone through the game and website and started replacing all variants of the words “game” and “play,” adopting Apple’s own “experience” phrasing, among other changes. Spotted by Taylor Hurst, we have:
- Games > Experiences
- Continue Playing > Continue
- Friends Playing > Friends Visiting
- Games (Category Label) > Discover
- Join Game > Join
- Playing > Active
It is not clear whether Roblox did this pre-emptively, as they didn’t want Apple deciding that hey, to be consistent with our policies, we have to kick Roblox off the store. Or if Apple contacted them directly about it, but I doubt that’s the case. This seems like a move to cover themselves and avoid a future confrontation with Apple, as unlike Epic, they have no Tim Sweeney who is in a fight-picking mood, and they certainly don’t want to be banned off iOS for posing as a game store within an App Store, one of the core tenets of the Apple V. Epic case.
But of course it’s weird and just kind of a farce because Roblox has never been shy about being a portal to tons of user-created games, which is the entire concept. I took this photo at my local grocery store a week ago:
So are these cards now going to say “Discover millions of experiences on Roblox” in another week? I joke, and yet that may literally be the nonsense that happens now.
I don’t really love Roblox bending to Apple’s will like this, and I think Epic is right to highlight them as a game store “exception.” Change all the terminology that you want but it doesn’t alter the fundamental nature of what Roblox is. I would love to see Roblox join with Epic to support their push for a more open App Store, instead they’re doing…whatever this is.
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